With casual games and shareware, the try-before-you-buy system of downloading the trial or demo version has been a proven method. There has also been tiered membership, divvying up perks to be added to each tier, from basic free up to the deluxe premium package. And of course, we are familiar with the ad-supported Web sites and games. No doubt some companies have tried to combine one or two of these business models.
Lately, though, microtransactional games are all the rage. They are not new, since Asian companies were happy to charge for every little thing in a free-to-play environment, but people were unsure if this would work in the Western economies. Facebook showed that people were more than willing to shell out cash for little birthday icons.
But as these types of games flourish on the iPhone and social networks, there are now more articles about aghast parents dealing with bills for $1400 or more, all spent on virtual dog biscuits or Smurfberries.
Some things to think about:
- Are there any special considerations when designing a free-to-play game? Does it matter if it's ad-supported or microtransactional?
- Do microtransactional games prey upon gamers' (or children's) addictions?
- What is the best way to deal with ads in an ad-supported game? Should they surround the game or be inside the game?
- Do you still maintain a subscription model while allowing for free-to-play and pay-as-you-go?
- How do you make free-to-play players feel just as valued as paying customers?
- Are there any community headaches that pertain particularly to free-to-play games?